On campus sexual assault is raising concern

Ned Dagenhard, an SGA candidate, has proposed an app for sexual assault victims to reach out for help anonymously. Photo by Hannah Greco | The Signal
Ned Dagenhard, an SGA candidate, has proposed an app for sexual assault victims to reach out for help anonymously.
Photo by Hannah Greco | The Signal

While call-boxes, police escorts and the vigorous check-in process all help decrease the amount of on-campus crimes and sexual assaults, according to a recent study done by a Georgia State professor Andrea Curcio, most of these incidents still occur in on-campus housing.

The dilemma

Curcio said that students are constantly warned about protecting themselves at parties and social events, but are not taught to be alert enough in the dorms.

“One of the issues, I think, is raising awareness that it’s not just at parties,” Curcio said. “You need to have you prevention lenses on in the dorm, as well.”

According to Georgia State’s 2015 campus safety and security report, three cases of rape occurred on campus. Two of those assaults occurred in on-campus housing facilities.

Curcio said that not only do 1 in 5 sexual assaults occur in on-campus housing facilities, but the attacker is often a friend or acquaintance of the victim.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to this issue,” Curcio said. “The truth is 90 percent of all on-campus assaults are acquaintance-based assaults, with freshmen being the most vulnerable population of students.”

Possible solutions and their limitations

Andrew Young School of Public Policy Student Government Association (SGA) Senator candidate, Ned Dagenhard agrees that campus housing sexual assault is a problem and that fixing it starts with raising awareness and having the conversation in an approachable setting.

“This abuse occurs across our campuses and how we react defines whether or not it continues,” Dagenhard said. “I believe we have an ironic problem where students feel intimidated, not because Georgia State doesn’t offer them any resources, but because having the conversation is too taboo.”

One of Dagenhard’s plans was to address this issue  by encouraging students to partner with a classmate, an idea which is being developed by a student through an app specifically catered towards victims of abuse.

“A classmate made mention of an app he’d developed which operates similarly to “Yik Yak” and creates a platform for students suffering from mental illness to seek guidance anonymously and 24/7,” Dagenhard said.

Along with this new app, Dagenhard plans to create a committee within SGA that will allow Georgia State students to voice their concerns about their safety on campus.

“I plan to form a student safety committee within the SGA Senate, which would be the primary source with the Student Government Association for student and their families to share their safety concerns,” Dagenhard said.

NaQoyah Hogan, University Commons resident, said the issue isn’t as discussed as it should be and that there are ways to address the issue.

“I feel as though sexual assault isn’t discussed as it should be when it comes to dorms,” Hogan said. “Parties aren’t the only place assault can happen.”

Yann Mondon, SGA Executive Vice President and resident of Greek Housing, said many turn a blind eye when it comes to this issue.

“It’s very lowkey, but it’s definitely happening,” Mondon said. “The addressing of the issue begins with housing being accountable and putting this stuff out there so students can be aware of what’s going on around them.”

While Curcio feels that these issues need to be publicized, Hogan said she rarely receives information regarding sexual assault and what to do in the event it happens, or even what to do to prevent it.

“I can’t even remember the last time I received an email about awareness of sexual assault,” Hogan said. “To make students aware they should have more events geared towards this specific issue.”

Dagenhard said the reason a lot of students don’t report these instances is because of the inevitable label that they feel will be placed on them.

“In my experience talking with friends and classmates who have been assaulted at Georgia State or other universities, their reason for not submitting a report has been for fear of being ‘seen as the victim’,” Dagenhard said. “In other words, we’ve created a stigma of weakness, rather than empowerment, around seeking help.”

What universities should do?

While schools support and enforce bystander prevention campaigns like “Step UP!” and “It’s On Us”, Curcio said many schools ignore where most sexual assaults occur and fail to study why they happen, where they do and how to prevent them. She also highlighted that students are not the only ones who are naive to on-campus housing sexual assaults, but that parents are as well.

“What needs to happen is that schools need to be studying this issue,” Curcio said. “Not only do they need to do the studies, but they need to publicize those results to incoming students and their families.”

Although all students and faculty at Georgia State are required to complete an online sexual assault prevention program known as Haven, Curcio said the module is simply not enough.

“I don’t know the full gamut of the Georgia State assault prevention program,” Curcio said. “But what I do know is I watched the mandatory video that everyone is required to watch and there really wasn’t much mentioned at all about the dorms.”

Curcio emphasized the lack of resources put towards the studying of this issue and said it is necessary to move forward.

“Part of the point is that schools don’t pay attention to it [on-campus housing sexual harassment],” Curcio said. “They don’t direct the study resources to it and that’s problematic because until there’s some study, we won’t know the complete answer.”

Prevention Methods

Dorm-based risk reduction programs may be effective in lowering campus sexual assaults.

  1. Encourage reporting and identifying hot spot areas that required greater faculty and security supervision.
  2. Increase classroom education efforts about respecting others’ boundaries.
  3. Place posters throughout the dorm building to increase awareness of sexual violence dangers.

Ignoring the data about where most on-campus rapes occur means many schools are not focusing on risk reduction strategies for one of the highest risk areas on campus – the dorms.

According to Andrea Curio